Gentle exercise, friendships and fun are just some of the benefits at an award-winning community sports club in Cliftonville.
The Thanet Thunderers, based at Trinity Community Resource Centre, meet twice weekly to play Boccia – a Paralympic sport originally designed for severely disabled players but now enjoyed by all.
It is a gentle, soft ball game played from a chair or wheelchair with the main rule being that no-one stands up, making everyone – wheelchair user or marathon runner – equal.
For those that can’t throw a ball, they can kick it, and if they can’t kick, they use a ramp to launch the ball.
The Thunderers were created following a 10 week Ageless Thanet course. Participants Terry Fearn, Jackie Potts and Pam and Gerry Fisher were keen to continue the sport and so set about establishing the club.
Terry,72, said: “At first there were four people and four volunteers and we thought maybe it wouldn’t last but by that Christmas there were 17 of us.”
Three years later and the club continues to grow in membership and is often the prompt to a more active social life for many who were previously isolated.
Terry, from Ramsgate, said: “It is very gentle exercise with a good social element to it. There is social inclusion, there are a lot of lonely people that are living on their own, and wellbeing and health benefits.
“Feedback from people includes how they feel happier and more confident and are getting out more. This club breaks the ice for people.”
Terry took an official Boccia England course so he can train and officiate at tournaments. He said: “Some players are completely paralysed and have an assistant for the physical side but they do all the lining up and everything. They are playing at a high level, enjoying it and achieving medals.”
The Thunderers play at two levels: social, casual games followed by tea, biscuits and chat; and then some members choose to play more seriously and enter local, regional and national competitions.
Last month the club was recognised by Boccia England when it was named club of the year.
Club members also enjoy trips and fundraisers throughout the year.
You can contact Terry Fearn on 07505 120059 for more information on Boccia and Thanet Thunderers activities. New members are always welcome and their first session is always free Sessions start at 2pm every Tuesday and Friday at Trinity Resource centre which is on the Loop bus route, opposite The Wheatsheaf Pub.
Team captain Terry Bailes, 60, from Margate: “I go to lots of competitions and team events. It is a really good way to meet people and have fun.
“It is good for exercise. Most of our members are disabled and/or elderly or on their own so this is something they can join in with.
“I travel quite a lot for the competitions which means I get to meet people from all over the place. It is good for making friendships.”
Helen Kevan, 83, from Margate: “It is good to see other people and we all have a laugh. It is not too serious and we have all different types of people as members.”
Founding member Phillip Coles, 59, from Ramsgate: “It keeps your mind active. It is god for self-esteem and you meet people. It is a friendly game and easy to play whether you have disabilities or not. It gets people out and active which is very important.”